This is the sad story of a little piece of gold that wants to shine but can't, so it 哭泣着。

小石头也想:“是金子在哪儿都发光。” 于是他日夜吸收天地之精华,把自己沖涤得闪闪发亮,终究又被脏东西所掩盖。

终究又被脏东西所掩盖。in the end by dirty things 所 covered up

What should I do with 所 here?? Just ignore it? Maybe it means 'all covered up'??

  • 1
    it is a structure for passive voice: 被X所Y. X is a noun and Y a verb. Y is usually disyllabic. Other examples include: 被大家所不齿, 被大家所接受
    – user58955
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 3:36
  • If I left out 所, would that be bad, or at least, not very good Chinese? Would you notice if it were not there??
    – Pedroski
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 8:46
  • 1
    Probably sounds less formal.
    – Ringil
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 10:37
  • Sometimes 所 is not used, as in 不为人知. It is perhaps because Chinese loves four-syllable words.
    – HYC
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 13:32
  • @HYC Exactly. If you remove 不 you need 所 to sound right: 为人所知.
    – NS.X.
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 22:03

4 Answers 4



◎ 所 suǒ


(1) 表示结构 [used before a verb or a V-C construction together with 被 or 为 to indicate the passive voice]

For translation, you could just ignore it:

In the end covered up by dirty things again.


被 is for passive. 所 creates a relative clause, which is usually not translated in full, because it would look very clumsy. Instead, 被 and 所 used together are usually translated simply as a passive construction.

long answer:

The basic answer has already been provided by songyuanyao: bèi 被 and suǒ 所 form a passive construction. I will add a source and try to explain.

While the Chinese language has changed a lot over time, certain aspects of grammar and the usage and function of certain structures and words has remained the same in principle.

Writing about passive constructions with 爲 (which in modern Chinese is replaced bei 被 or 將), Edwin G. Pulleyblank points out in Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar (p. 37):

In later Literary Chinese, from about the beginning of the Hàn dynasty, this construction takes on a new form, in which suǒ 所 is inserted in front of the embedded verb. That is, wéi sān jūn huó[sic] 爲 三 軍 獲 [meaning: being captured by the three armies] would become wéi sān jūn sǔo huó 爲 三 軍 所 獲. As we shall see, suǒ 所 is the regular substitute for the object of a verb in a relative clause when this is coreferent with the head of the clause. The noun after wéi 爲 continues to be its indirect object, not the subject of the relative clause, since it is never followed by zhī 之 as a mark of nominalization and since it takes the object pronoun zhī 之 rather than the possessive pronoun 其 as its pronoun substitute.

So, in passive constructions with bèi 被, a suǒ 所 can be used.

What does 所 do?

It replaces the object of a verb and alters its position in the sentence to stand in front of it. In your case the verb is 掩蓋. The object of 掩蓋 would be gold. In other words, 所 creates a relative clause that could be translated as “that which is covered”.

Remember that the subject of your main sentence is still 他, standing for 金子, the piece of gold.

As Pulleyblank explains, the noun 髒東西 after the passive marker is not the subject of the relative clause, but the indirect object. That means, we cannot directly translate to “that which the dirt covered”.

Then in the next section (p. 37f):

In its new form we must therefore construe our sample sentence as ‘You will be for the Three Armies what [the Three Armies] capture.’

With both wéi 爲 and wéi suǒ 爲 所 the agency may be left unexpressed.

Therefore, we’d first analyse [他/金子]被脏东西所掩盖 as “[It/The gold] will be for the dirt, what the dirt covers” and then transform it into an English sentence which more elegantly expresses that meaning: “Eventually, the poor piece of gold ended up being covered in dirt... Again!”

  • What an excellent answer — thanks for taking the time to reference the Classical Chinese!
    – rramphal
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 5:58

被...所覆盖 means covered by .... It has a revered order with English. So you can consider that and together are used as by.


As to the meaning and 所, I agree with songyuanyao. just want to say something about how to use this 所 in Chinese. 1 所 is more used in written Chinese and classic Chinese. 2 In daily conversation we use “被“.

  • I’m afraid to say what you wrote is not correct. In literary AND modern Chinese, suǒ 所 indicates a relative clause, whereas bèi 被 indicates a passive sentence. These two constructions should not be confused. -1
    – Philipp
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 8:23

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